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Absolute versus relative measures of plasma fatty acids and health outcomes: example of phospholipid omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and all-cause mortality in women

Miura, Kyoko, Hughes, MariaCelia B., Ungerer, JacobusP. J., Smith, DavidD., Green, AdèleC.
European journal of nutrition 2018 v.57 no.2 pp. 713-722
arachidonic acid, confidence interval, death, docosahexaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, gas chromatography, linoleic acid, mortality, multivariate analysis, omega-6 fatty acids, phospholipids, prospective studies, risk, women, Queensland
PURPOSE: In a well-characterised community-based prospective study, we aimed to systematically assess the differences in associations of plasma omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid (FA) status with all-cause mortality when plasma FA status is expressed in absolute concentrations versus relative levels. METHODS: In a community sample of 564 women aged 25–75 years in Queensland, Australia, baseline plasma phospholipid FA levels were measured using gas chromatography. Specific FAs analysed were eicosapentaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, total long-chain omega-3 FAs, linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, and total omega-6 FAs. Levels of each FA were expressed in absolute amounts (µg/mL) and relative levels (% of total FAs) and divided into thirds. Deaths were monitored for 17 years and hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals calculated to assess risk of death according to absolute versus relative plasma FA levels. RESULT: In total 81 (14%) women died during follow-up. Agreement between absolute and relative measures of plasma FAs was higher in omega-3 than omega-6 FAs. The results of multivariate analyses for risk of all-cause mortality were generally similar with risk tending to inverse associations with plasma phospholipid omega-3 FAs and no association with omega-6 FAs. Sensitivity analyses examining effects of age and presence of serious medical conditions on risk of mortality did not alter findings. CONCLUSIONS: The directions and magnitude of associations with mortality of absolute versus relative FA levels were comparable. However, plasma FA expressed as absolute concentrations may be preferred for ease of comparison and since relative units can be deduced from absolute units.